Years ago, I architected a house. Being a Civil Engineer by qualification architecture is something that I was always fascinated with. Today I architect software, at least that’s what they say I do.
Architecture is one of the most misused terms in today’s software industry. There is an architect for everything – one for user interface, one for data, one for solution and one for the entire system. Then there are numerous technical architects who do all kinds of job – from design to coding. Then there are those obscure ones – lead architect, consultant architect, principal architect and so on.
In 1987 John Zachman complained that the words “information systems architecture” were losing the meaning. He then looks at classical architecture and draws an analogy in his famous paper A Framework for Information Systems Architecture. Through the introduction he describes the term architecture as some logical construct, and some kind of structure. Probably, that’s what we really want through the process or architecture – a logical construct, a structure to the system. Zachman then goes on to explain how architect lays out the drawings in different perspectives. And that’s it – that’s what an architect does.
An architect is someone who sees things and concepts in its final state – buildings, bridges, automobiles, hardware, software, process, enterprise and so on. He is able to visualize the solution and translate that into drawings; drawings from different perspectives. In classical architecture those drawings are usually elevations, plans, and sections. Three perspectives, those define the building completely. Then there can be details of all these. Everything else is design – structural design, interior design, landscape design and so on.
Architect defines the construct of the concept in an integral manner. Designers adapt different perspectives of it and design. Builders use the design to build different pieces. And it all comes together to something that the architect envisioned, before it even existed.
“Most people,” Roark says, “build as they live — as a matter of routine and senseless accident. But a few understand that building is a great symbol. We live in our minds, and existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and form.”